The Jordanian capital is an incredibly compact city, where the historic core is richly connected and inherently walkable.
There are few reasons to want to drive anywhere immediately outside of the city, because all of the major attractions in Amman are very central. The compact nature of the old citadel makes driving impractical, with many of the narrow streets only being open to one way traffic.
It is much easier to walk, or at least trust the navigation to local taxi drivers.
Visitors arriving at Queen Alia International airport outside Amman can also make relatively easy road transfers into the city centre, whether by taxi, scheduled bus or private transfers. The airport was purpose built in the early 1980s to cater for growing air traffic. You will find it some 20 miles (30km) from the city centre. A new terminal, designed by Foster & Partners, opened in 2012.
You may well notice the railway to Aqaba crossing the airport access road, but for the time being, this line is not open to passenger traffic. Rail transport in Jordan is very limited, with the one passenger service currently still open being the line running through Zarqa and Mafraq. This line has historically continued through to Damascus in Syria – please check locally for any operational updates.
When combined with the Dana Biosphere Reserve, which sits to the north of Petra on the route down from Amman, you may start to see a potential road trip unfolding. Whether you see this working its way into a one week car hire excursion is another matter though. You may well still find that this route can be done using organised tours. Scheduled bus services are an easy enough option between Amman and the three main places above – Dana reserve less so.
Given the inhospitable nature of the Jordanian landscape, and given that many of the tourist experiences outside Amman itself will be well packaged regardless, we see little reason to look at getting a car here. It’s worth looking at if you really crave for the independence a car will give you, despite all the hassles. Relatively speaking, Jordan is a moderately safe place, but that’s easy if you take that comparison against Jordan’s immediate neighbours!
Car hire and car driving is still a risk wherever you go. You may well be able to find a decent Amman car hire deal directly from Queen Alia Airport, and you may indeed want to head straight on a road trip of the south, missing out Amman altogether and going straight for Petra and the barren delights of Wadi Rum. If you do this, I think that would be a shame, as you’d be missing out on the many points of interest in Jordan’s ancient historic capital.
Highways in Jordan are generally modern and well laid out, especially between the cities. Sadly, there is no working rail service that will be of any use to visitors to Amman.
Do you need a car in Amman? Ultimately, our Amman car hire verdict remains a “no”, but it’s certainly one of our softer recommendations. If you are already coming here with getting a hire car in mind, then a bus of some kind is going to be your only other real option, unless you want to hire a private car with driver. Once you are thinking about doing that, then a standard rental car starts to look like a much better option.
Verdict – no (soft).